Jeanne Muller ’13
Major(s): Latin American/Latino/Caribbean Studies
Internship Site: Grupo FARO (Foundation for the Advance of Reforms and Opportunities) - Quito, Ecuador
I spent the semester (Spring 2012) studying abroad in Quito, Ecuador. As part of one of my classes, I completed some service-learning work with an organization to learn more about Ecuadorian society and social issues. The sister of an Ecuadorian friend of mine works at Grupo FARO and was kind enough to pass on my résumé to the organization’s Research Director.
I had three main projects and responsibilities during the course of my internship. My main project was helping to prepare a paper for a think tank conference in South Africa organized by IDRC, one of Grupo FARO’s donors.
My second responsibility was to revise miscellaneous documents written in English. While this was nothing very new for me, it did allow me to see how certain documents are written.
Finally, my “capstone” project was an independent assignment to prepare a presentation to educate Grupo FARO’s researchers in how to effectively use databases and citation tools. The goal was to give them more tools to make research easier, more fruitful, and more enjoyable. I delivered a forty-five minute presentation to about 15-20 of my colleagues, including the Executive Director.
I encountered several small challenges. Perhaps one of the most obvious was the language barrier. Actually, I’d explain it more as a joke barrier. Humor is perhaps one of the hardest things to learn of a different language, and at times I found myself wanting to make a joke but unable to properly word it. This may seem minor, and it is, but I feel that it’s an important part of socializing and connecting with coworkers.
Another challenge was staying motivated. Getting up and going to work was new and exciting at the beginning, but at some points, it was difficult to be happy about the fact that I would be spending the day on the computer when it was a beautiful day outside. This ties into the ideas of taking initiative and work-life balance. By taking initiative, I found I was able to determine some of my own projects and things that interested me, which in turn motivated me. And in terms of work-life balance, you’ve got to figure out how to make the most of the time you’re not working – whether that’s sleeping in on a Saturday morning and reading, or going for a day-hike on a Sunday to be active – you’ve got to find what works for you so that you don’t get to the point where you’re dreading Monday morning when it comes around.
Network. There’s a reason this is the Dickinson College Career Center’s motto. The thing is, anyone and everyone you work with in an internship can be helpful. For me, the key was to ask people questions, talk with them, and try to learn from their experiences. An internship is as much observing as it is doing. Networking can be as simple as talking to someone. Knowledge exchange is a central facet of networking.
Tips from Jeanne:
Perseverance is essential to finding an internship, and it’s important not to get discouraged when you don’t find anything right away. Sometimes it might even be more fruitful to email those organizations you’re interested in working with, even if they don’t have any internship postings.
I think another important aspect is choosing an internship that you know will challenge you. Challenge is crucial to learning. Overcoming a challenge also reinforces your learning and your confidence in your ability to successfully complete tasks.
Finally, one of the most important things I’ve learned from the Internship Notation Program is that it is of utmost importance to continually reflect on your internship experience. It is a manner of identifying what you like, what you don’t, and honing your career interests. After all, internships are meant to be learning experiences that prepare you for your future career. Few of us know exactly what we would like to do in life so it is important to explore where our aptitudes and interests meet.
*To find out more about how to get an internship, make an appointment with a career counselor. Just call the Career Center at 717-245-1740 or stop by Biddle House.